O’Brien v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Case Brief
O’Brien v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 443 F.Supp. 1182 (N.D. Ga. 1977).
Facts: O’Brien (P) was accused by a fellow union member of violating the constitution of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW, D) by distributing literature that was detrimental to the union. The Local 613 chapter heard the charges, fined O’Brien and suspended him from local union activities. That decision was vacated when it was discovered that the IBEW had jurisdiction over the matter.
The IBEW heard the charges and fined O’Brien $100. O’Brien sued the IBEW and alleged that the charges, trials, and sanctions imposed by the Union violated his rights to free speech and assembly under 29 U.S.C. 411(a)(2).
A dispute arose over whether O’Brien was entitled to obtain certain documents through discovery. Interrogatory 4 sought to discover IBEW’s legal theory based on facts obtained by IBEW through discovery. Interrogatory 6 sought discovery of legal conclusions related to the law governing the case generally rather than the specific facts of this case.
Issue: May a party acquire through discovery legal opinions, contentions, and conclusions provided they do not extend merely to issues of pure law?
Holding and Rule: Yes. A party may acquire through discovery legal opinions, contentions, and conclusions provided they do not extend merely to issues of pure law.
The court held that O’Brien’s interrogatory 4 sought only to discover IBEW’s legal theory developed in light the evidence it had obtained in connection with this case. Those legal theories involved exceptions to the right to free speech that IBEW planned to use as a defense and involved an application of the law to the facts of the case. The court held that this interrogatory should be allowed under FRCP 33(c). Interrogatory 6 however involved pure conclusions of law unrelated to the facts of this case and was therefore not permitted.
Disposition: O’Brien’s motion to compel discovery was granted for Interrogatory 4 but denied for Interrogatory 6.
See Hickman v. Taylor for a law school civil procedure case brief involving an issue of whether a party was entitled to obtain through discovery certain information obtained by an attorney in preparation for litigation.